Fresher face and new tech for updated Kia Picanto

  • Modest mid-life update for Kia’s smallest car
  • New ‘Smartstream’ engines
  • Big improvements in safety and infotainment

The third Kia model in recent weeks to receive a mid-life upgrade is its smallest – the Picanto city car. The latest Picanto gains plenty of new technology including a raft of safety accessories, as well as a sleeker design, which especially marks out high-spec GT-Line and X-Line models from their lower-specification counterparts.

Going on sale later in 2020, the updated Picanto remains one of just a handful of city cars on sale in the UK – and will go head to head with its sister car, the Hyundai i10, as well as the Volkswagen Up and Toyota Aygo.

Smoother styling and striking top-end models

There’s not a lot changed for regular models, though all cars get a pair of new alloy wheel designs and a choice of 10 paint finishes. The real changes are to the sporty GT-Line trim as well as the faux off-road X-Line.

> We lived with a Kia Picanto for six months - read our reports here

There’s a new textured surround for the ‘tiger-nose’ grille on these two cars, plus a chrome-effect surround which extends into the headlamps to widen the car’s front. GT-Line cars get red highlights at either end of the grille while X-Line models feature black trim which resembles an air intake.

2020 Kia Picanto GT-Line

These two models also get redesigned head- and tail-lights, plus redesigned front and rear bumpers covered in sharp creases.

The changes successfully mark the two cars out visually from the lower echelons of the Picanto’s range. That’s particularly appreciated on the X-Line, which now looks more cohesive overall – and less like a regular Picanto that’s run headfirst into a selection of black plastic offcuts.

High-spec interior with improved infotainment

The Picanto echoes the i10, from sister brand Hyundai, by fitting a large 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system to the top of the dashboard and pairing it with a 4.2-inch display in the instrument panel. This system runs Kia’s latest UVO system, bringing with it an array of telematics features including the ability to view live traffic, weather and even parking information or petrol prices right from the car’s in-built infotainment system.

There’s also a companion app which lets owners check where they’ve parked, or monitor servicing or maintenance data remotely. Of course, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard, as does Bluetooth multi-connection, allowing two phones to pair simultaneously.

2020 Kia Picanto interior

Newly available are interior colour packs, to brighten up what’s traditionally a very dark interior. Lime, Orange, Red or Green ‘packs’ will be available, with the latter bringing denim-effect seat upholstery.

Three engines on offer

Kia’s upgraded the Picanto to its new ‘Smartstream’ engines. Essentially, power and displacement is unchanged, but greater efficiency and lower CO2 emissions are promised. Full data isn’t yet available, though.

The range kicks off with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder producing 67hp, or those wanting a bit more oomph can opt for a 1.2-litre four-cylinder with 84hp. These are identical to the two units found in the Hyundai i10.

There’s also a turbocharged 1.0-litre, which is badged T-GDI and fitted with a turbocharger. With 100hp on offer it’s a feisty little performer – we lived with a model thus equipped for six months and found it fun but thirsty.

Slightly less welcome news is the introduction of a new Automated Manual Transmission, or AMT. This replaces the old-fashioned but particularly competent four-speed torque converter automatic previously available. We’ve driven a Hyundai i10 with this new AMT, and found it to be dreadful.

Impressive safety kit for a little car

The Picanto comes to market with a full roster of safety kit, although the more sophisticated active systems are saved for top-end models.

2020 Kia Picanto rear

All cars will get autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cycle detection, a feature absent from the latest Volkswagen Up. There’s also seven airbags including one for the driver’s knee.

Available depending on trim is blind-spot collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist and lane-following assist.

Pricing and full specifications for the facelifted Kia Picanto will be available later this year.

Further reading:

> Kia Picanto full review

> Best small cars

> Hyundai i10 review